Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage (2008) – reviewed by George

Why not follow a late Halloween review with an early Christmas one?
In this movie, based on a book by Kinkade himself, we see how he got to be the “Painter of Light”, in a touching Christmas tale. Tom and his younger brother Pat (Jared Padalecki and Aaron Ashmore) were from Placerville, California, and returned home to be with their mom Maryanne (Marcia Gay Harden) on holidays. On the particular Christmas in the story, 1977, they learn that the family cottage, a little out of town, will be lost to the family at the end of the year because the bank is foreclosing. Many extensions have already been granted, and there is nothing to do but pay the bill, which is impossible. The boys are determined to get work in order to try, and Pat is hired to help Big Jim (Richard Moll) with his vast Christmas-lights display, which extends all over his property. He is angrily in competition with his neighbors Evelyn and Lloyd (Gabrielle Rose and Malcolm Stewart) and their electrical efforts. Tom goes first to see Glen Wesman (Peter O’Toole), the famous artist who lives next door and has been kind to Tom and has taught him a lot about art. Then Tom goes to town and gets a commission from Ernie, the head of the Chamber of Commerce (Chris Elliott), to paint a mural of Placerville at Christmas on a wall downtown, because the Placerville tree-lighting ceremony will be televised to Sacramento this year, Placerville being the Christmas Tree Capital of the World (or maybe just of California).
There are many other denizens of Placerville who play important roles in the story: Charlotte Rae as Vesta the church organist, Geoffrey Lewis as Butch the local saloon owner, Chelan Simmons as the reigning Miss Placerville who is completely stymied by Miss Placerville 1974, Tanya (Kiersten Warren), since Tanya seems to have Ernie in her pocket, and Jay Brazeau as Mr. Rosa, who gets featured in the mural with his dog. There’s also a totally unexpected visit from the Kinkade father, Bill (Richard Burgi), who remains unhelpful, though his visit shows a desire for connection. And there’s Edward Asner as Sidney, Glen Wesman’s dealer, who comes looking for one last painting.
This is an excellent Christmas film, and with the performances of Padalecki, Harden, O’Toole, and Burgi, it is an acting class as well. In fact, the entire cast is working at a very high level, many in tragic storylines and many in comedy roles. Screenplay by Ken LaZebnik and direction by Michael Campus.

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